The Anatomy of a Shelf

Happy Saturday! Today we are going to talk all about the anatomy of  shelves, what to put on them and how to style them. Like the coffee table, shelves are a microcosm of styling where all of the principles will come into play on a small scale.

You’ve seen it. The effortless collections of beautiful things, arranged in perfect vignettes all over Pinterest, Instagram, and magazine covers. How do you do that?? What should go on your shelves?! What are the proper ratios?? How do you make sure it all goes together, while also being personal and meaningful?!? Ahhh!!! CALM DOWN! Once again, simple rules break down this process into something supremely manageable. Here are some now:

If you remember in my last post in this series “The Anatomy of a Coffee Table Top” we talked about the rule of 3’s which is that the eye likes objects in groups of 3’s which feels the most balanced. We also talked about the vertical + horizontal + sculptural rule, which means that you should have something horizontal to ground the space, something vertical to add height, and something sculptural to tie the two together. Like so:

Vertical horzontal and sculptural


Source: 1 / 2 / 3

This vignette satisfies both the rule of 3’s and the VHS rule.

Before we get started on the steps, I want to talk about what to actually put on your shelves. When it comes to styling a shelf you can technically use anything that fits! There aren’t any hard and fast rules about what can and can’t go on a shelf, however here are a few things that are helpful to have around when trying to fulfill the rule of 3’s and the VHS rule. Items that are commonly incorporated are:

  • Books: I really hope this was obvious. When looking for books you can easily buy pre-collected vintage books in pretty much any color scheme you can think of, which sounds convenient, but the price tag is shockingly prohibitive! I would therefore suggest taking your time to build up a collection – it will be much cheaper in the long run, not to mention fun! Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to thrift shop??
  • Plants: This is my favorite thing to put on shelves. They provide color and life as well as freshening the air. Low light plants like ivy are hard to kill and can grow out in many directions, changing the landscape of the shelf in a pleasant way. Plus, you can stick them in some really pretty pottery!
  • Statues and decorative objects: This part can get really wild! Here is where personality comes out and things get quirky. If you have any historical family items, or travel souvenirs you want to display, this is the perfect opportunity. Personal opinion that my husband doesn’t share: the quirkier the better.
  • Baskets, Bowls, and Boxes: These are handy for fulfilling the “horizontal” element of your vignette. This is also a great surface to display those decorative objects, or plants on. They also tend to be more visually heavy which makes them great for grounding the vignette (but don’t tease them about it).
  • Art: art is another great place to get some quirk in, but it also can add a vertical element. This is a great opportunity to incorporate color and personal touches.
  • Pottery: Next to books, pottery is probably the most popular thing to put on bookshelves because it can really fill out the space and add verticality, or horizontality. A tall shelf is obviously the most safe place to display any treasured, delicate pottery. Collections of pottery can be pretty baller, especially if its handmade or vintage.
  • Lamps: Lamps are the least common way to fill out your shelves but if you have an outlet near by and it can fit, it is a great way to literally add warmth and dimension to a shelf vignette.

So there are some of the building blocks of shelves! Time for the steps to actually arranging your shelf vignettes! Keep in mind that these steps are just my guidelines to get you started and there are plenty of other perfectly successful (and perhaps more efficient) methods out there that I haven’t found yet.

step 1_

Determine your palette. “Palette” here is referring not just to colors but also textures, and the energy or style of the room. Is it a globally themed room? Is it pretty monochrome? Traditional? Gather items that fit within that theme. Here are 3 different directions you could potentially head but this is completely up to your personal style: 

beachy minimalist (1)

Beachy Minimalist: 1 / 2  Edgy Modern: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 Warm Traditional: 1 / 2 / 3


step 1_ (1)

The next step is to pepper rectangular objects horizontally and vertically throughout the shelves. You can put as many or as few as you like, but make sure not to put them directly above each other so that nothing looks lopsided. These items are more visually heavy and will be the grounding points of your vignettes.

Shelf Styling (2)


step 1_ (2)

Mix in art and pottery. Again, don’t let things get too lopsided, try to balance out the heavier items, adding something vertical or horizontal wherever it is needed to fulfill the rule.

pottery and art shelf styling (1)


step 1_ (3)

Add in plants, decorative objects, and figurines. As you can see, these really can be anything. For the decorative objects, I have added some round circle things (?), a collection of little house figurines, a brass duck, a camera, and a magnifying glass. I tend to go heavy on the plants so I have something on every shelf but one or two will be sufficient.

Step #4 (1)

step 1_ (5)

Fiddle! Get obsessive about details. I give you permission. Fuss over and polish your styling until its perfect. This is the part that you imagine when you think about styling your shelves. This is also a multi-part process:

Step 1: Move something.

Step 2: Stand back.

Step 3: Stroke your chin thoughtfully.

Step 4: Feel superior and artsy.

Step 5: Move it back to where it was before.

You’d be amazed what this exercise does for your self esteem!

But really, fiddling is the most important part of shelf styling. You have all the right elements, in the correct scale, texture, and colors, all in the general area that they need to go, and you are almost there! Now you just need to shuffle things around until they feel right, adding and subtracting items as needed. Don’t be afraid to nix items that aren’t fitting in well, scrap everything if you need to!

So to recap:

#1 Determine your palette. Gather your items.

#2 Pepper rectangular objects horizontally and vertically throughout the shelves.

#3 Mix in pottery and art, filling in the horizontal, or vertical items needed.

#4 Add in plants, decorative objects, and figurines.

#5 Fiddle! Fuss over and polish your styling.

Miscellaneous guidelines:

  1. Make sure the vary the materials of the objects on the shelves. If you have natural wood shelves, make sure to separate a natural wood bowl by using a book or tray.
  2. If you’re dealing with a shelf thats super long and stretched out, make sure to arrange the vertical items in a way that flows well and adds height so that it doesn’t look accidental.
  3. When trying to child proof shelves, include some linen or wicker baskets on the bottom shelves to hold toys and stuffed animals, and keep more delicate items on the top shelves.

There you have it! Shelf styling. Leave a comment below if you have any questions at all! I leave you with some purse and simple shelf inspiration:

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1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7
1 Room 3 Ways, Design Board, E-Design, Inspiration, Shopping, Tips

1 Bathroom 3 Ways

Happy Friday! Today is another installment of 1 room 3 ways, this time – a bathroom! A bathroom is a great place to do this because even though there are a lot of permanent fixtures, there are endless fun little accessories you can style with. Which means that picking just 3 combos was very very hard!

First we look at the bare bones of this bathroom:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways Original #2

The Vanity: This simple midcentury modern vanity is from Rejuvenation, which has some really fabulous vanities that go with most styles! With everything included, they are customizable and a great backdrop.

The Mirror: This mirror is from Pottery Barn and is an interesting shape with the fun chain detail, but is still simple enough to go with anything.

The Pendant: This pendant is a gem from Lulu And Georgia! It is the perfect blend of unique and simple. You’re not likely to find this ziggurat style anywhere else.

I also chose a white penny tile for the floor and shower. Penny tile is probably the most versatile (ha! get it!?) tile there is.

The styling variables:

  • Sconces
  • Art
  • Rug
  • Chair
  • Basket
  • Towels

The goal is to take these variables and change them around to demonstrate how different a room can look just by changing out the cosmetics.

Global Version:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways #1 of #2

Sconces / Art / RugChairBasket / Towels / Vase

For the global version of this bathroom a vintage kilm rug was the jumping off point. Global style is characterized by ethnic patterns, wood, and warm tones. It is a very layered style that is great for mixing in to other styles.

Wallpaper Version:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways #2 of #2

Sconces / ArtRug / Chair / BasketVaseWallpaper

We take a hard left turn with this wallpaper, turning the bathroom whimsical, colorful, and almost childlike. There is something very colonial about this iteration but I can’t pin down a specific style. It hints at a lot of different things.

Modern Scandinavian:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways #3 of #2

Sconce / ArtRug / ChairLadder / Towels

The Modern Scandinavian bathroom is really minimalist and simple with clean lines and warm tones. This style is similar to global in that it can be mixed with any other style effortlessly. Unlike global style it is characterized by color blocking (no pattern), simple lines, and minimalist, open spaces.

1 Bathroom 3 Ways

Styling is magic! It can completely transform a room into different versions of itself. In this series I demonstrate how to restyle the same room 3 different ways and completely transform it!

Don’t miss the other posts in this series!

1 Bedroom 3 Ways, 1 Living Room 3 Ways, 1 Nursery 3 Ways

Inspiration, Tips, Trending, Trends

What Does “Bright” Design Mean?

Happy Friday, everyone! Today I want to talk about what it means when people say “bright” in reference to the feel of a room. A few weeks ago I did a post about moody design, so I figured I would now go the other way and delve into what the opposite – bright, means. Similar to moody design, brightness is a ‘mood’ as opposed to a style in and of itself. This means that it can be applied to any style.

Unlike moody design, bright design is completely oversaturated (get it??) in the design scene these days, so I’m going to try to break it down into just a few key elements:

#1 Natural Light

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Source: 1|2|3

Obviously when talking about “brightness” the element of light will be the most important. Duh. This is one that in my opinion, you can’t have too much of, and I know you’ve heard that from every designer ever. Maybe one day there will be a deviant trend where dank dark basements become a covetable architectural feature, but I doubt that will happen and if it does, I quit.

#2 White

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Source: 1|2|3

Second most important is lots of white! One of the most common things I hear is “Not white! Its too sterile.” or sometimes “Really? Just boring white?” The truth is that white is the best equalizer that I know of. Period. Painting your walls white allows you to add 10X more color and texture than you otherwise would’ve been able to. To make a sweeping generalization (because who doesn’t love those), unless you are going for a ultra minimalistic, dramatic, or editorial look, white is always best for a functional home. Here I include some examples of homes with tons of warmth and color that are not boring at all, and also use white on at least the walls.

#3 Saturated Colors

_U1E4636_733   bd11e7d0b8db15ef88bde481624792f0  db3666781bad992ff4087aa78b371142whistles_women_annakarlin_39_004fe7803c05a3   db36d2e17fe1a4da916f5aba2d71e592

Source: 1|2|3|4|5

I debated adding this one at all because a bright and neutral colored home is entirely possible and absolutely lovely. The addition of saturated colors are not 100% necessary in order to a home to be “bright”, however the combination of natural light + white + saturated colors = something so utterly “bright” that I couldn’t NOT include it!

#4 Openness?

0a70300692963eb4562d5ce4f016543c  9536acd5f43684c7bf76fb6459914c89  d0177eee455df19bd81e07236375cfbb.jpg

Source: 1|2|3

This one is a little harder to describe. It could be an open floor plan, a sky light, large windows, or even just high ceilings (a combination of these would be total design porn)

Even though all styles can be bright I think that the styles that lend themselves to this “brightness” are Modern, Mid-century Modern, and Scandinavian styles.

So what is your take on bright design? What elements do you love about bright design?

Fashion, Holidays, Inspiration, Shopping, Tips, Trends

Guide to Gifts for Fathers

Welcome to The Fig Design’s first ever gift guide! The next holiday happens to be Father’s Day so thats what we’re doing here today. Just keeping it real…

For Father’s Day growing up my siblings and I would, in addition to the ties and socks, invariably get our dad some form of comically large chocolate. Giant Hershey’s Kisses, giant Hershey’s bar, giant Snickers, etc. As kids we understood that “dad likes chocolate” and looking back on this holiday, I realize that his exclamations of “Oooo! Chocolate, my favorite!!” while genuine, didn’t represent the total rapture I thought we were providing him.

Thankfully my knowledge of how to buy for men has developed in the last few years, so in ADDITION to the giant chocolate you get your dad this year, consider some of the below items that (I believe) most men would be (hopefully) happy to receive.

(Note: the noticeable lack of power tools and sports gear in the below guide is not lost on me. The fathers in my life, while they have their moments of handiness, don’t have a particularly high desire/need for power-tools or sports gear, so it didn’t really occur to me to include them!)

Fathers Day Gift Guide

(1) Suit – Dads and fashion- the age old dilemma.

(2 Komono Shaun Sunglasses – Geometric glasses are the next thing. Help your dad onto this trend train.

(3) Baseball Cap – Insert favorite sports team here.

(4) Glass Water Bottle – Does your dad loose his water bottle, like, every day?

(5) Beer Brewing Kit – Complicated instructions and alcohol. Great mix.

(6) Running Shoes – To help him get rid of that “dad bod”

(7) Leather Duffle Bag – Traveling in style.

(8) Whiskey Stones – Because dads like whiskey, I guess??

(9) Cotton T-Shirt – Great piece for layering that goes with most stuff.

(10) Toilet Coffee Cup – Because dads like potty humor for some reason??

(11) Eye Glasses Holder – Come to think of it, I might actually get this for me! Super cute little styling thing…

(12) Watch – I love the simplicity of this watch!

1 Room 3 Ways, Design Board, Tips

1 Bedroom 3 Ways

Happy Friday everyone! I apologize for the lack of posts this week. Head over to my Instagram stories to find out why! (so exciting!)

Today is another installment of 1 Room 3 Ways! This illustrates how you can completely change the feel and style of the room by changing out a few items but keeping the core (expensive stuff) the same! This time we are doing a bedroom. These are the items that are staying the same:

OB-1 Bedroom 3 Ways Original

Bed – This bed is a splurge! Even though the design is simple, the grain of the wood makes it into a focal point.

Chair – This leather chair from BluDot is great for any style.

Side Table – I believe bed side tables should have some storage but because of the visually light nature of the other objects in the room I wanted something grounding. These bullet tables have hidden storage while also being a strong tulip shape.

Pendant – This is from one of my favorite lighting companies of all time. SchoolHouse Electric!

Items that will change are: dresser, art, rug, pillows, and accessories

First up is a Scandinavian style with green accents. I love those floating leaf prints from Industry West. The feel of this room is very cool and organic:

OB-1 Bedroom 3 Ways #2

#1 Rug, Art, Art, Pillow, Pillow, Dresser, Mirror, Candle

Next is our bright, colorful version:

This eclectic version of the room has lots of warm and soft colors with plenty of fun accents. Shout out to David Michael Slonim for that awesome painting!

OB-1 Bedroom 3 Ways #1

#2 Art, Art, Rug, Pillow, Pillow, Pillow, Dresser

Now for the third room: I’ll be honest. I had a lot of trouble coming up with a direction for this one! For some reason nothing felt right, or special enough. But I found this print from Chairish that I LOVE! Its got art deco, glam, and lots of abstract art!

OB-1 Bedroom 3 Ways #3

#3 Planter, Art, ArtDresser, Rug, Tree, PillowCandle

So there you have it! 1 Room 3 Ways. Let me know in the comments which room you would like to see next.

1 Bedroom 3 Ways

In case you missed them, here are the other 1 Rooms 3 Ways: 1 Living Room 3 Ways, 1 Nursery 3 Ways